The government has responded to the Taylor review into modern employment practices by promising to improve working conditions for millions of UK workers, including those in the gig economy.
Published today, the Good Work plan sets out stricter plans to enforce holiday and sick pay for vulnerable workers, as well as larger fines for businesses that fail to honour employment contracts.
The plan will see the government go further than proposals outlined in last year’s Taylor review in some instances. All workers, including those on casual and zero hours contracts, will have a new right to a payslip, for example.
Under new rules, every worker will also have the right to request a more stable contract and will be entitled to holiday and sick pay entitlements from day one of their employment.
Business secretary Greg Clark said that the Good Work plan was a sign the government was ready to “embrace new ways of working”. He added: “We will be one of the first countries to prepare our employment rules to reflect the new challenges.”
The Good Work plan
The plan will see the government take a three-pronged approach to improving working conditions in Britain; by protecting workers’ rights, by ensuring workers are paid fairly, and by increasing transparency in the employment market generally.
(1) Protect worker rights
Measures to protect worker rights under the Good Work plan will include:
- Taking action to ensure unpaid interns are not doing the job of a worker
- The introduction of a naming scheme for employers that fail to pay employment tribunal awards
- Increasing tribunal fines for employers showing malice, spite or gross oversight to £20,000, and considering increasing fines for employers who have previously lost similar case
(2) Ensure fair pay
Measures to ensure workers are paid fairly under the Good Work plan will include:
- Giving all 1.2m UK agency workers a clear breakdown of who pays them, with any charges deducted from their wages
- Assessing the impact of higher minimum wage rates for workers on zero-hour contracts
- Considering repealing laws allowing agencies to employ workers on cheaper rates
(3) Increasing transparency among employers
Measures to ensure transparency increases for workers in the business environment will include:
- Outlining “working time” for flexible workers who find jobs through apps or online, so they know when they should be paid
- Launching a task force with business to promote take-up of the right to request flexible working
- Encouraging working parents to share childcare through shared parental leave
- Ensuring new and expectant mothers know their workplace rights and raise awareness amongst employers of their obligations
Matthew Taylor, author of the original review, welcomed the government’s response, saying it would, “make a difference to the lives of the most vulnerable workers”.
He added: “On important issues, including pay for variable hours workers, employment status and representation of workers, I welcome the direction indicated today, but there is more work to be done to encourage the government to be bold in living up to its commitment to good work for all.”
CEO at the Association of Independent Professionals and the Self Employed (IPSE), Chris Bryce, agreed that the Good Work plan was mostly a positive response to the Taylor review.
He said: “Its pledges to clarify the confusion over employment status, define ‘good work’ and generally improve support for the self-employed are particularly welcome.
“The key thing now though is that the government doesn’t kick these pledges and consultations into the long grass. We will be making sure in the coming months that this does not happen, and that any coming changes help and support the self-employed.”
Just a baby step
However, some workers’ unions have been far more critical of the proposals. Frances O’Grady, general secretary at the TUC, said that the government “has taken a baby step – when it needed to take a giant leap” on employment practices.
She added: “These plans won’t stop the hire and fire culture of zero hours contracts or sham self-employment. And they will still leave 1.8m workers excluded from key protections.”
General secretary at the Independent Workers Union of Great Britain (IWGB), Jason Moyer-Lee, was similarly critical of the Good Work plan.
In an open letter to Clark, he wrote: “Similar to the Taylor review itself, this announcement is big on grandiose claims but light on substance. It contains a couple of good but modest proposals, as well as a couple of terrible ones.
“The Taylor review was already a watered-down version of what we needed to see to fix the problem and your announcement today is a watered-down version of the watered-down version.”
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